Sara McLaughlin stands and watches over a training instructor's lesson at the EquiCenter Ranch in Rush, N.Y. on Dec. 6, 2017. Sara has been an instructor at the EquiCenter ranch since 2005.

For Sara McLaughlin, working with special needs kids “just felt normal” as a result of growing up with a sister who has an intellectual disability. Sara McLaughlin started her career in therapeutic riding as a volunteer at age 14. Sara always aspired to work with horses but wasn’t interested in competing in shows, her interests lie in getting other people to be excited about horses. “I was a horse crazy girl and this was a way to have access to horses” says Sara about why she started doing therapeutic riding. In 2005 Sara joined the team of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) riding instructors at the Equicenter Ranch in Rush, New York where she teaches mainly young kids with intellectual disabilities. Through the horseback riding Sara is able to help her students with their physical strength and their social skills. While being horse crazy started her profession, what kept Sara invested in her job is “being able to see the little miracles every day”. One such miracle that Sara witnessed is when Cailin McKemzie, a student, spoke her first word, “barn” after her second riding lesson. Many of the people that Sara teaches have been with her for many years, some having taken lessons for as long as 12 years. Sara creates strong personal bonds with her students and makes sure to keep the lessons light hearted in order to keep it from feeling like therapy. “She embraces the silly” Kelly Wurster says, the mother one of Sara’s students. While her co-worker Lindsay Alberts says the hardest part of the job is teaching people with degenerative conditions, for Sara the worst part is the lesson notes she has to make after each class. Sara doesn’t like to focus on the struggles that her students face, but rather on the progress that they are able to achieve during each lesson. Each person that Sara teaches has their own set of difficulties and figuring out the best teaching method it is a welcome challenge that Sara faces every day.

Sara McLaughlin talks to Michael Joseph Bentley, 6, after getting him on his horse for his lesson at the EquiCenter Ranch in Rush, N.Y. on Dec. 6, 2017. Sara has been with Michael for only 3 months, but they already have a great relationship.

Sara McLaughlin holds Douglas Wurster's, 13, hand in the right place over the reigns during their lesson at the EquiCenter Ranch in Rush, N.Y. on Dec. 6, 2017. Sara creates strong bonds with her student's keeping the lessons light hearted and personal.

Sara McLaughlin uses the horses tail as a mustache during her lesson with Michael Joseph Bentley, 6, at the EquiCenter Ranch in Rush, N.Y. on Dec. 6, 2017. Sara will, "Embrace the silly" in order to keep the student's happy and entertained during the lesson.

Sara McLaughlin carries Michael Marusiak, 11, who is sleeping, off of his horse at the end of his riding lesson at the EquiCenter Ranch in Rush, N.Y. on Dec. 6, 2017.

Carol Sandt-Brick watches over her her daughter Abby Brick, 17, during her lesson with Sara at the EquiCenter Ranch in Rush, N.Y. on Dec. 12, 2017. Sara has been working with Abby since she was 5 years old, "Sara knows her really well" Carol says.

Sara McLaughlin looks over Michael Joseph Bentley, 6, as he reaches out on his own to pet a horse at the EquiCenter Ranch in Rush, N.Y. on Dec. 6, 2017.

Sara McLaughlin looks over the arena at the the EquiCenter Ranch in Rush, N.Y. on Dec. 6, 2017. Sara teaches in order to see the, "Little miracles" that come from her lessons. She doesn't focus on the struggles that her student's are facing, but instead focuses on how to overcome those challenges.

You may also like

Back to Top